Very Few People Lose Weight Without a Food Diary

Call it obsessive-compulsive. (The researchers themselves do.)
Call it tedious. (It certainly can be.)
Even call it a little weird. (It is.)
But above all, call it successful.
That's because writing down every singe thing you eat, along with how many calories it contains, can help you stick to a weight-loss regimen.
Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (October 1998)

I've tried estimating, I've tried guessing, I've tried not keeping track at all and until I started keeping a food diary, I was fat. I can vouch for the effectiveness (and the weirdness) of using a food diary. I also think it has to be yours, your idea, your design and it needs to be convenient.

You could try keeping a pad of sticky notes in your pocket or purse, you can use a three ring binder, or a yellow legal pad, even your Blackberry; whatever works for you. It doesn't need to be fancy, no one is going to see it but you.

I personally have been using something similar to this:
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It's a soft cover calendar book, and I always keep a mechanical pencil with it since there isn't alot of room to write in it.

Here are a couple of sample months from my food diary:
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If you only have 1200 or 1400 or however many calories you've determined you need to take in in order to meet your goals (weight-loss or maintenance) and you don't write down every calorie you take in or burn, how will you know how many you have left after that hot fudge sundae?

The concept of a food diary is like a checkbook that starts out with the same balance every day. You have 1400 (calories) to spend every day. If you eat a 200 calorie snack, you have 1200 left. Conversly you can "add" to your calorie balance by exercising. If you start the day with 1400 and burn 150 at the gym, you now have 1550 in your daily calorie bank to work with. Writing it down as you spend it is the only way to stay on track when your finances are this tight. It only takes one little slip to throw you off track.

Looking up and writing down the calories in the food you eat (or more effectively are about to eat) will help you make better choices. For years I carried around the CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter. This way no matter where I was, I could look up the calories and either say, "yes please", "no thank you" or "can I get that with the dressing on the side?" with full confidence that I was staying inside my calorie goal. More often than not, if I eat first and look it up later, I regret it.

If you are serious about weight-loss, is this really such an inconvenience? Isn't it worth a try? Isn't ANYTHING worth a try? As with all weight-loss tools, consistancy is going to be your key. I've caught myself slacking off on writing in my diary, the blank days or pages getting wider and wider and it's a cue for me to get back on track. I even write notes like "GET BACK ON TRACK!" in my food diary, journal, log whatever you want to call it.

If you find a formalized page to be helpful, check out this version from the American Heart Association or maybe you prefer an online version like this Calorie Counter at



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